Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature

     (CN) — Bob Dylan today was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, for 55 years of songs that the Swedish Academy said “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
     It was a surprising move for the Swedish Academy, which never has awarded the prize to a songwriter and singer before.
     Dylan’s 1963 song “Blowin’ in the Wind” became an anthem of the civil rights movement, he continues writing and touring today, at 75. He often was mentioned as a wild-card candidate for the world’s most prestigious literature prize, but today’s announcement was unexpected.
     And it came on the day the Swedish Academy’s most surprising previous Nobel Laureate for Literature, Italian playwright, comedian and prankster Dario Fo, died at 91. Fo was awarded the prize in 1997.
     Dylan’s musical compositions are generally standard 12- and 16-bar popular song forms, though it’s not unusual for him to insert an odd measure, of two, four or six beats, which often fit so smoothly the listener is unaware of it.
     But the Academy’s award was for his lyrics, which draw on old blues traditions, often mixed with what critics have called hallucinatory visions.
     He was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minn., on May 24, 1941, and grew up in Hibbing, which he left in 1961 to go to New York to visit his idol, Woody Guthrie, who was hospitalized with Huntington’s chorea, which killed him. Dylan changed his last name to honor the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
     Dylan’s music stirred controversy for years, first for his anti-war lyrics — though he wrote in his 2004 autobiography “Chronicles” that his favorite politician at the time was Barry Goldwater.
     In 1965, he was accused of “betraying” the revival of U.S. folk music when he plugged in at the Newport Folk Festival and played straight out rock and roll.
     He mystified his fans again in 1979 when he released “Slow Train Coming,” an LP of Christian music.
     In its announcement, the Swedish Academy compared Dylan to Homer, another poet who is believed to have delivered his lyrics in song. Dylan, who has written more than 500 songs, performed last week at the Desert Trip Music Festival in Indio, Calif., with fellow songwriters Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, and is scheduled to do so again this weekend.
     President Obama congratulated him from the White House this morning. The prize comes with 8 million Swedish kronor, about $900,000.
     Always a contrarian, Dylan has repeatedly denied being “the voice of a generation.” When asked about this during his first period of worldwide fame, nearly 50 years ago, he replied: “I’m more of a song and dance man.”

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